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Monday, April 04, 2011

Coalition’s 'rehabilitation revolution’ is not fit for purpose

Coalition’s 'rehabilitation revolution’ is not fit for purpose

When a wheel turns full circle what occurs is a revolution. Reading Christian Guy's piece on ConservativeHome, the Coalition’s ‘rehabilitation revolution’ reminds me of the workhouse from the 16th century. Guy states: "As part of this ‘revolution’ prisons will finally become places of purposeful and realistic work – prisoners should go to bed tired at the end of each day like the hard working taxpayer does. And the wages they earn should help to compensate victims".

The wheel is a great invention. It can either roll forward or backwards. It would appear that the Tory led Coalition talks about going forward, but this Tory policy appears instead to be geared up to rolling backwards.

Under the right circumstances, I would favour the idea of prisoners being given purposeful and realistic work. If such work could be found for them then at the very least they should be paid the National Minimum Wage. Better still, a 'living wage'. However, I do not favour the idea of a Victim's Tax being levied upon prisoners to compensate victims because this, like denial of the franchise, amounts to an additional punishment.

ConservativeHome states "Christian Guy is Co-author of Locked Up Potential, a prison reform report published by the Centre for Social Justice". There are at least 10 other Co-authors of this report. The task force was chaired by the disgraced ex-Tory Minister Jonathan Aitken. Whilst it may not be a bad thing, per se, for the Tory party to welcome back into the fold one of its black sheep. Nevertheless, it is questionable why it is thought that Aitken's 7 months in custody makes him some sort of an expert on prison rehabilitation? It appears to have the smell about it of jobs for the boys!

Another Co-author of the report is disgraced former Director of Rye Hill Prison, Stuart Mitson, who was also a member of the task force. Aitken recommended that the next Government uses the Mitson Academy Model prison. Quite apart from the obvious bias of the Chair recommending the proposal of a panel member, it is clear that Mitson stole the blueprints of the Carling Unit at Rye Hill Prison and passed them off as his own design.

Erwin James is another Co-author of the report. Whilst I acknowledge he has a lot more prison experience that Aitken, I cannot get over the admission made by James in The Fear Factory film that he used to attack fellow prisoners for the benefit of prison officers and the system.

Our prisons do need reform and there is a need for genuine rehabilitation of prisoners. However, as I have outlined above, it is doubtful that the Tory led Coalition is fit for purpose.

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